I live in a rural community and we get three newspapers here. The first is our main, statewide paper. Though it’s a daily paper, I only subscribe to the Sunday edition of that one for the coupons and sales flyers. However, we also get two other small-town papers each week. We don’t pay for these and never asked to be added to the mailing list; they are simply sent through the Postal Service to everyone who lives in the township (we get two because we live in the doughnut hole between two towns so the publishers send us both).
I used to dismiss these as junk mail and tossed them straight into the recycling bin. I used to refer to them as, “the crap papers.” Then one day I actually sat down and flipped through one of the papers. While it certainly wasn’t a hotbed of journalism (and it badly needed an editor), I did find that there was more of value in there than I’d thought. Here are a few things I found:
No, it didn’t have the large piles of coupons that typically come in the Sunday papers, but there were a few in there for local businesses. Most weren’t even in an insert, they were just paid ads placed throughout the paper that you could clip and bring in for things like free meals, BOGO’s, and free product trials. These are the kinds of coupons you can’t find online or in the bigger, statewide papers because the small businesses aren’t advertising there.
I personally don’t keep up with every local business or community organization online. I can’t. There are just too many and many here don’t even have an online presence, or if they do it’s just a placeholder that’s never updated. However, the paper has a section for community events that lists the free and low cost events that are happening around town. There were even organizations in there that that I’d never heard of and which I’ve since become very interested in supporting.
In addition to coupons, several businesses put out special offers, or piggyback on a larger town event and include offers to match. For example, the local high school baseball coach just retired after forty years. To celebrate, the paper put together an insert chronicling his career and many local businesses bought ads in that insert. Many of the ads had special offers such as free meals or products if you came in on the last day of the coaches’ tenure. There was another one once where several of the businesses that bordered the block where the local craft fair was being held were offering freebies if you stopped in during the fair. There are always things like this in these papers but you don’t know it unless you read it.
Like I said, this paper isn’t the New York Times when it comes to covering major events. However, I do find stories in there that the larger papers don’t pick up but which have the potential to impact us financially. One of these papers was the first place I learned about cuts to our library system, as well as a potential new road that would have cut close to our property and lowered our property value. Knowing about those proposals allowed the community to protest and make sure that our elected officials understood the impacts of these ideas on us. We won both, keeping the library open and defeating the road.
Since I only get the Sunday paper, I don’t get the grocery flyers that come in the mid-week edition of the statewide paper. However, both local papers carry the flyers and each has some different ones, unique to the stores in each town. I understand from people who do get the main paper that not all of the stores put their flyers in there, anyway, and that the smaller stores only advertise in the local papers. The smaller stores don’t even put their flyers online. If you want to know what’s on sale or get the coupons and offers, you have to read the local papers.
Notices of New Businesses Opening
These papers are the place where I find out which new businesses are coming to town. It’s useful to know, for example, that a new grocery store or gas station is coming because it means more competition. There may also be freebies and special offers associated with the grand opening. It may also mean the addition of a new local business that deserves my support instead of buying from a mega chain store.
Yes, there are websites like Craigslist and eBay and all kinds of online sites to post merchandise for sale, yard sales, and used car sales. However, I live in a very rural community and many, many people here are not Internet savvy. (High speed Internet is hard to get and expensive, too, which limits what gets posted online.) As a result, these local papers are still the best places to go for yard sale listings, used cars for sale, notices of estate sales, and the like.
So don’t dismiss your local paper if you have one. It may be small and short on news, but there are other reasons you might want to at least glance through it. We’d all like to think that everything is online, but the reality is that in many places, particularly small towns, much of it is not and the local paper is still the best resource for finding out what’s going on.
If you live in an area that has a small local paper and you don’t receive one automatically, you might want to see if there is a way to get signed up. Likely the subscription will be free or a very nominal amount when compared to subscribing to a big, daily paper.
(Photo courtesy of Matt Callow)